Disney’s holiday decorations have a heartwarming backstory

The festive snowflake decorations at the Walt Disney World Resort's Animal Kingdom park were made by artisans like Trenton Martin who have special needs. (Photo: Disney)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida — and it’s thanks in part to the craftsmanship of some hard-working artisans with special needs.

This holiday season, the Discovery Island section of the resort’s Animal Kingdom park has been decked out with hand-woven white snowflakes with a festive flair. Beyond their beautifully intricate designs, however, the snowflakes have a heartwarming backstory, having been made by hand by workers with cognitive and physical disabilities.

Disney tapped the Augusta, Ga. nonprofit Augusta Training Shop to create the dazzling decorations. Since 1947, the shop has employed adults with special needs and trained them in manual work ranging from furniture repair and chair caning to metal polishing and crafting ornaments like the ones on display at the Walt Disney World Resort.

“What Disney has done for us is breathe new life into these hearts and these hands,” Audrey Murell, executive director of the Augusta Training Shop, said in a video for the Disney blog. She added that the work helps the shop’s employees enjoy a “meaningful life.”

The handcrafted snowflakes will be featured at the Walt Disney World Resort during the holidays. (Photo: Disney)

A group of artisans were invited to see their snowflake creations in the flesh during a recent visit to the theme park, an experience that left them awestruck.

"It brings real joy for me to see it,” said artisan Kasey Warning.

Disney World guests — or anyone else smitten with the festive decorations — can recreate the look at home. The shop sells the snowflakes, along with crosses and other ornaments, online.

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